Prove that the new Senate leadership is better.
This was the challenge of over 500 students – including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) Filipinos and their supporters – to the new Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri. The call is to end the debates and eventually pass the SOGIE Equality Bill to protect the LGBTQI Filipinos from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).
According to Roi Galfo, a transgender woman who ran on a platform of anti-discrimination in Valenzuela during the recent Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, members of the LGBTQI community experience prejudice and discrimination daily. Galfo, herself, experienced discrimination in 2016 when she was publicly humiliated by a supervisor while working at a call center in Quezon City.
“Yung mga transgender agent na iyan, mag-CR (comfort room) kayo kung ano ang gender niyo nung pinanganak kayo!” Galfo said the human resource [HR] manager told her. “We are being discriminated every day. There are those who continue to degrade and humiliate us simply because of our sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. This must stop.”
Vince Liban, head of the UP’s Babaylan, an LGBT organization, explained that there is currently no law that protects members of the LGBT community from discrimination, harassment and prejudice.
“I hope that the new leadership in the Senate, particularly Senate President Tito Sotto and Majority Floor Leader Migz Zubiri, to listen to the plight of the Filipino LGBT and stop the delay in the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill,” he said.
The delay in the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill is a denial of human rights, Liban added.
A version of the SOGIE Equality Bill has been approved by the House of Representatives in a unanimous vote in September last year. The Senate, however, is yet to approve its own version.
“The Majority Floor Leader schedules the bills to be taken up in the Senate session floor. We are hoping Sen. Migz Zubiri will heed the call and end the debates in the Senate on the bill,” said Mikee de Vega, chairperson of the De La Salle University – University Student Government and convener of Catholics for Equality.
De Vega added that the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill will be one of their main criteria in choosing Senators for the midterm elections.
“We are closely watching the Senate and we hope they deliver,” she concluded.